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Keywords:

  • state;
  • asylum;
  • power;
  • devolution;
  • discretion;
  • space-time

Previous analyses of forced migration have drawn attention to the increasing discretion held by asylum sector decisionmakers. According to these accounts, as the state reacts to the political risks associated with asylum migration control, responsibility for forced migration management is increasingly transferred onto a range of intermediate actors, between state and society, including local government employees, asylum interviewers, immigration judges and security staff. Yet little research has directly addressed these intermediaries’ collective experiences and the influences to which they are subject. The article therefore focuses attention explicitly upon the nominal conduct of this increasingly authorised, discretionary and highly heterogeneous population. Drawing upon 37 interviews across four sites at which asylum sector intermediaries have significant and increasing discretion over asylum seekers’ experiences, the findings demonstrate the importance of institutionalised timing and spacing for the determination of their volitional conduct. The timing and spacing of government institutions are important, not only through their influence over asylum seekers directly, but also because they present asylum seekers to those with discretionary authority in ways that are conducive to exclusionary uses of this authority.